Psalm 31:1-8

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
    as for me, I trust in the Lord.
I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
    for you saw my affliction
    and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
    but have set my feet in a spacious place.

My new dear friends in Christ …

If you have been by my office door during the last week or remember seeing it after my installation service while we were enjoying a lovely meal together … you should remember or you at least noticed something different about it.  My office door is currently wrapped with … caution tape.  Now there is a reason for this which we will unpack together over the next few minutes.

Before the caution tape was on my office door it was last seen in my back yard back in Wayne, Nebraska.  You see, on our property were two huge Maple trees which if I had to take a rough guess are about 50 to 60 years old.  Our neighbors to the north and to the south also had two of these huge Maple trees.  You can imagine the leaves which will be falling from those trees here in a little while.  Living in the middle of these six Maple trees, it seemed like my yard was a magnet for the leaves.  Mine fell straight down, but then the Nebraska fall wind coming out of the north would make those neighbor’s leaves fall in my yard and then when the winds changed for a day, the other neighbor’s leaves fell in my yard.  When we hauled the leaves out, we borrowed a full-size pickup and hauled away five to six very packed down loads of leaves.  With all these leaves falling in my yard, what do you do when you work with youth and when you have two little ones of your own? … You make the largest leaf pile in the neighborhood and you play in it of course!  Except there is only one problem when you make the neighborhood’s largest leaf pile and you let it sit there for a couple of weeks … the next spring you have the largest circle of dead grass.

So being the manicure lawn specialist that I tend to be, I raked up as much dead grass as I could, put stakes up around the outside of this circle of deadness, seeded it, watered it religiously, and wrapped the area with nothing else but bright yellow caution tape.  I didn’t wrap it just once but twice to make sure that the fertilizing people as well as my little kiddos would see it and stay out of it.

It isn’t just circles of dead grass in one’s yard or the office doors of new workers which we wrap caution tape around.  In every stage of life, whether one it is as a high school student dreaming about making the team, getting asked out by a particular boy or girl, or hoping to get accepted to a particular college … whether it is a college grad looking and hoping to land that dream job they studied so hard for … whether it is a couple looking for a perfect house or is hoping to get pregnant and have a child of their own … whether it is someone older who is looking at retiring or going on a trip … no matter who you are, no matter what you are looking forward to … caution needs to be taken.  Caution needs to be taken because if you put all your hopes and dreams in one basket, if you put all your hopes and dreams on one thing to happen … you may be sorely disappointed.  Caution needs to be taken because if you put all your hopes and dreams on yourself or in someone else, like your new pastor … you will more than likely be sorely disappointed.  You’ll be disappointed because no matter how much caution one takes … putting all your trust in someone who is sinful like you and me, trusting in something that is not a sure thing you will be led to disappointment, led to shattered hopes and dreams, led down the road to devastation.

King Saul of the Old Testament dreamed of being a great king in the sight of God.  Saul dreamt of being the greatest king in the sight of God … but Saul had a problem … he did not trust in God.  Instead of listening to God and trusting in God’s plan, Saul took matters into his own hands.  By taking matters into his own hands and not trusting, God’s favor on Saul was taken away from him and was transferred to a young shepherd boy named David.  Saul’s hopes and dreams of becoming the greatest king in the sight of God were shattered because Saul did not heed the caution given to him by God’s prophet.  In not paying attention to the caution tape of deviating from God’s plan, Saul trusted too much in himself and was led down the road of disappointment and devastation.

Because David was anointed to be the next king of Israel while Saul was still alive, Saul again sought to take matters into his own hands.  Saul pursues David.  He pursues him into the hill country and does everything he can to try to corner David and end David’s life.  There is only one problem … where Saul trusted in himself and his own abilities … David trusted in God.

Listen to what David says in the very opening verse of Psalm 31, “In you, O LORD, do I take refuge.”  It’s not, I take refuge in you O LORD, but “In you, O LORD.”  As David is running for his life from a self-centered mad man, David knows, David wholeheartedly believes in his heart that God is in control, that God has a plan for him.  It doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to David as he is running from cave to cave.  It doesn’t make any sense to David’s followers that David is given opportunities to kill Saul but doesn’t.  As much as it doesn’t make sense to the average person, it does to David because David takes refuge in that God is with him, that God is his refuge.

And the very same thing is true for you.  It makes no sense at all why bad things happen to good people.  It makes no sense why it seems like some people can never catch a break.  Pastor Meyer and I can never give a logical and comforting answer to those questions that people ask because we don’t know what God’s will is.  There is no self-help book which we can give you which will give you all the red flag answers so that you can avoid the potholes of life.  As much as you may heed the caution tape that is up, your life, you will never be able to go through life and avoid and all the dangers … you will never be able to avoid all the doubts and the problems which one faces.  There is no escape.  But just because there is no escaping them, that doesn’t mean to that you throw in the towel and give up either.  Instead, as illogical as it may sound, we must meet those doubts, problems, and temptations head on.  You need to meet them head on knowing by the faith given to you by God that you don’t do it alone, for you do it with the one who has already faced your trial, who has already faced your doubts and temptations.  And the greatest news of all is that he has overcome them all, he has conquered them all for you!

Jesus through his perfect life as a human being like you and me has taken on every single problem, doubt, and temptation that mankind has ever experienced, that you have and will ever experience.  Through his death on that cross, Jesus tore down every bit of Satan’s caution tape which surrounds you saying that you aren’t worth his dying for to the wind and said, “In you, O LORD, do I take refuge.”  Jesus knew that even though he would be forsaken by his heavenly Father and have to suffer the torments of hell on that cross upon which he died … Jesus rose to tell you that you are forgiven, you are forgiven of all of your sins.  Jesus rose to tell you that “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).

Caution tape, much like the tape which is on my office door, is used primarily for one thing … to warn you of possible danger.  At a construction site it warns you of the potential danger that there is a big hole in the ground that you may fall into or of the danger that something hard or heavy may fall on you so you will want to wear a hard hat.  In my yard in Nebraska, caution tape tells you stay out of the circle where the grass is trying to grow.

So, what does the caution tape on your new pastor’s office door mean?  First and foremost, it does not mean to stay out.  It does mean though that I am not perfect and that I will make mistakes.  It means that like every one of you … I am a sinner in need of the heavenly meal of Christ’s body and blood shed for me on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.  It means that I am in desperate need of your prayers for strength and grace.  The caution tape on my door means that if you put your hope and trust in me as if I am the Savior … then you will be sadly disappointed, your hopes and dreams will be crushed, and you will begin down that road of devastation.

As David says in the psalm, “In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; … for you my rock and my fortress, and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me” (v 1a & 3).  You will notice in my sermons that I will not tell you what to do.  I will not give you a step by step list of things you need to do to earn salvation, to overcome the guilt or doubt you are feeling in your hearts.  Words like those or resources like those should be wrapped in caution tape.  However, what I will tell you about is Christ and him crucified.  Christ does not throw caution to the wind when it comes to your salvation.  As noted in the other readings, he builds a firm foundation in himself.  As noted on the cornerstone just to the right of the doors coming into the church, Jesus is our cornerstone.  Jesus through his outstretched arms on the cross has conquered the world, he has conquered your sin, your doubt, your fears.  He carried them all into the tomb where he has left them.  He left them there so that you may approach the outstretched loving arms of your Savior who welcomes you into his family, into his eternal kingdom without caution.  Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever.  Amen.